By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, March 5, 2017
Headlines last week were proclaiming that a group of cardinals believe Pope Francis should step down to avoid a catastrophic schism in the Catholic Church.
Schism? What schism?
In fact, the modern Catholic Church is already in schism, but it is an internal schism, hidden to most people.
The divide is very clear and yet virtually unspoken. Nobody dares to really speak of it. The divide runs between cardinals. It runs between bishops and archbishops. It runs between theologians. It runs between parish priests. It runs between liturgists and catechists, church workers, musicians, teachers, journalists and writers.
It is not really a divide between conservative and liberal, between traditionalist and progressive.
It is the divide between those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Virgin born Son of God and that as the second person of the Holy and undivided Trinity established his church on earth supernaturally filled with the Holy Spirit which would stand firm until the end of time, and those who believe otherwise.
Those who believe otherwise are the modernists. They are the ones who think the church is a human construct. It is a historic accident that occurred two thousand years ago and succeeded by a few twists of fate and a few happy circumstances. Because they believe the church is a human construct from a particular time and place, the church can and MUST adapt and change for every age and culture in which she finds herself.
This is the great divide. This is the schism which already exists.
Is the church a divinely appointed institution established for the eternal salvation of souls or is it a social construct which sincere people have put together to make the world a better place?
This is the divide within the church today and every conflict about everything –from music, to architecture, to art, to Catholic education, from liturgy, to literature, from devotions to disciplines and doctrines–everything comes back to this basic divide.
Of course I believe the first: the church was established by God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the defeat of Satan, the salvation of souls and the redemption of the world through the supernatural graces empowered by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
All the rest–from saving the environment to feeding the hungry, from equal rights for workers to opening a soup kitchen, from educating the young to achieving peace and justice–are secondary and reliant on this first and eternal priority.
The schism already exists.
All that is required is for individual Catholics to decide which side of the chasm they reside.